Several immigration officers have been sacked for refusing on religious grounds to trim their beards and lower the hem of their trousers below the ankles.
The department of immigration said in a statement on Thursday that notices were handed to officers who refused to comply with the uniform code before a deadline lapsed last week. The department also offered to facilitate their transfer to a different civil service job.
“Today after working in the government for 14+ years I have been terminated from my job informing that I am not following the uniform code. My fault was obeying the commands of the Prophet,” one of the sacked officers said in a Facebook post last Thursday.
More than five officers, including a long-serving deputy chief immigration officer, have been told not to report to work. They were given a month to find employment elsewhere with an offer of help upon request.
Some scholars believe that shaving moustaches and wearing a beard are obligatory upon all adult Muslim males according to the Sunnah – the way of life prescribed for Muslims based on the teachings and practices of Prophet Muhammad.
The immigration department’s uniform code requires beards to be kept smaller than two centimetres and prohibits keeping trouser hems above the ankle. The department moved to enforce the code last month and offered a period for employees to comply.
The move has drawn stringent criticism from the religious conservative Adhaalath Party and prominent scholars.
The opposition Islamic party called the dismissals “an atrocity against Islam” that it said was intended to “isolate those who love the Prophet and religion”.
The immigration department’s media official, Hassan Khaleel, was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.
In its statement, the department said its staff should follow the code of conduct and the uniform rules as it is the institution legally responsible for national security and border control.
Asked about the issue at a press conference this afternoon, Islamic Minster Ahmed Ziyad Bagir said he could not comment because an official complaint has not been filed yet.
“I’ve only heard of it in the media,” he said, refusing to be drawn on it despite being asked about the immigration department’s press statement.
According to NGO Salaf’s preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem, Chief Immigration Officer Hassan Nawaz Adam and six others have been sacked.
“I remind the [Human Resource Management and Development] committee, you have created a uniform code and are forcing people to obey it, against the Quran and the Prophet’s teachings,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“It’s very dangerous, forcing people to act against the religion and sacking them from the job they have been serving for ages is cruelty. Such acts will be given justice in the face of God.”
Sun Online meanwhile reported Sheikh Ahmed Sameer as saying that wearing beards and keeping trouser hems above the ankle is part of the Prophet’s teachings. Condemning the uniform code as anti-Islamic, Sameer insisted that the practice is mandatory as there is a consensus among scholars.
Then-Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said at the time that a number of army and police officers had appealed with the ministry for the change.